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Context of 'May 2003: National Guard Uses Sleep Deprivation, Mock Execution Techniques on Prisoners at Base Near Baghdad'

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The US establishes a loose network of prisons and detention centers in Iraq where Iraqi prisoners of war are held and interrogated. Iraqis detained by Coalition Forces are usually first brought to facilities at US military compounds where they are subjected to initial and secondary interrogations, ranging from a period of one week for initial interrogations up to one month for secondary interrogations. During this period, the detainees are not permitted to contact relatives or seek legal counsel. The prisoners are then sent to one of ten major Coalition prison facilities, at which point their names and information are supposed to be entered into the Coalition’s central database. The major facilities include:
bullet Abu Ghraib Prison (Baghdad Central Correctional Facility or BCCF), the largest.
bullet Camp Bucca, in Umm Qasr.
bullet Talil Air force Base (Whitford Camp), located south of Baghdad.
bullet Al-Rusafa (formerly the Deportations’ Prison or Tasfirat), in Baghdad.
bullet Al-Kadhimiyya, in Baghdad, for women only.
bullet Al-Karkh, in Baghdad, for juveniles only.
bullet Al-Diwaniyya Security Detainee Holding Area.
bullet the Tikrit detention facility.
bullet the Mosul detention facility.
bullet and MEK (Ashraf Camp), near al-Ramadi. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]

Entity Tags: US Military

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Infantry units from the Florida National Guard arrive at the Assad airbase located northwest of Baghdad. They are assigned the task of overseeing a detention center that has been set up in an aircraft hangar. The cells of this makeshift prison are separated with concertina wire. The US soldiers are “instructed to use sleep deprivation on prisoners, and taught to perform mock executions.” The interrogators are “not in regular army uniform, and the soldiers never [learn] their real names.” Camilo Mejia, a member of the Florida National Guard, will later tell The Guardian: “We had a sledgehammer that we would bang against the wall, and that would create an echo that sounds like an explosion that scared the hell out of them. If that didn’t work we would load a 9mm pistol, and pretend to be charging it near their head, and make them think we were going to shoot them. Once you did that, they did whatever you wanted them to do basically.” Mejia, the son of a famous Nicaraguan political songwriter and folksinger and who later applies for status as a conscientious objector, will say that many soldiers were uncomfortable with these tactics. “The way we treated these men was hard even for the soldiers, especially after realizing that many of these ‘combatants’ were no more than shepherds.” Mejia will also say that when his platoon leader objected to using these techniques, he was told that his refusal to do so could end his military career. [Mail & Guardian, 5/14/2004]

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases previously classified documents that contain excerpts from a government report on harsh interrogation tactics used by US personnel against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. The excerpts document repeated instances of abusive behavior, sometimes resulting in the deaths of prisoners. The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), contain a report by Vice Admiral Albert Church, who compiled a comprehensive report on the Defense Department’s interrogation operations. Church terms the interrogations at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan as “clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policy or guidance.” Only two pages from the Church report were released without redactions.
Deaths at Bagram - A portion of the document reports on the deaths of two prisoners at Bagram (see December 5-9, 2002 and November 30-December 3, 2002), who were, the document states, “handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake.” The report continues: “Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of ‘compliance blows,’ which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma.” Both detainees died from pulmonary embolisms caused by, the ACLU writes, “standing chained in place, sleep deprivation, and dozens of beatings by guards and possibly interrogators.”
Deaths at Other Facilities - The documents also report on torture conducted at Guantanamo and several US-Afghan prisons in Kabul; the death of prisoner Dilar Dababa in Iraq in 2003 at the hands of US forces; the torture and beating of an Iraqi prisoner at “The Disco,” a detention facility located in the Special Operations Force Compound at Mosul Airfield in Iraq; an investigation into torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad; and the murder of prisoner Abed Mowhoush.
Process Flowed Through Undersecretary Cambone - Columnist Scott Horton writes: “A large portion of the torture, maiming, and murder of detainees occurred under authority issued under secret rules of engagement in the Pentagon. Much of this flowed through Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, a figure who has so far evaded scrutiny in the torture scandal.… Even the Senate Armed Services Committee review fails to get to the bottom of Dr. Cambone, his interrogations ROEs for special operations units he controlled, and the death, disfigurement, and torture of prisoners they handled. This is one of many reasons why a comprehensive investigation with subpoena power is urgently needed. But full airing of the internal investigations already conducted by the Department of Defense is an essential next step.” [Raw Story, 2/12/2009; American Civil Liberties Union, 2/12/2009]

Entity Tags: Senate Armed Services Committee, American Civil Liberties Union, Albert T. Church III, Bush administration (43), Dilar Dababa, Stephen A. Cambone, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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